Benjamin Franklin Papers
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The American Peace Commissioners to Prince Bariatinskii, [2 July 1783]

The American Peace Commissioners to Prince Bariatinskii

Retranslation: reprinted from Nina N. Bashkina et al., eds., The United States and Russia: the Beginning of Relations, 1765–1815 ([Washington, D.C., 1980]), p. 199.8

On Tuesday, July 1, at the weekly gathering of ministers at Versailles, Vergennes informed the American peace commissioners that the Anglo-French treaty had been settled, pending British approval, and the time had come for them to pay official visits to the Russian and Austrian ministers who would be signing the treaty as mediators. The commissioners did so the next day, calling first on the comte de Mercy-Argenteau, who was not at home, and then on Prince Bariatinskii, who received them “very politely.” Arkadii Markov, who had been sent to Paris in April to join Bariatinskii as a co-mediator, arrived during their visit and warmly acknowledged their intention of calling at his residence later that day. (He was not at home when they did.) Before the summer heat became unbearable, they also called on the ministers of the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark, leaving their cards.9

Because neither Russia nor Austria had yet recognized the United States, John Adams wondered whether those ministers would need to consult with their courts before returning the visits.1 He need not have worried. Austrian representatives had been wondering since January how they could lure Franklin into making an official overture, allowing Joseph II to confer recognition and launch trade negotiations.2 When Mercy-Argenteau received notification in April that he would be receiving full powers and instructions for serving as a mediator in the treaties of France and Spain, he observed to the emperor that signing the Anglo-American treaty as well would provide the opportunity for establishing the trade relations they had been seeking.3 By the end of April, he and the Russian ministers had agreed that they would participate in the signing of the Anglo-American treaty if asked.4 This must have been what prompted Vergennes in May to sound out the American commissioners quietly as to whether they would “prefer” to invite mediation. They did not.5

As the time for signing the treaties approached, however, Vergennes must have known that the mediators would still welcome a role in the Anglo-American treaty and were prepared to recognize the American commissioners. Protocol required that the Americans pay the first visit. The imperial ambassadors returned those visits the next day, leaving cards.6

[July 2, 1783]

Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin, and Mr. Jay, Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to treat of peace, have called to have the honor of visiting His Excellency the Minister Plenipotentiary of Russia.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8It is likely that the original was written in French, as Bariatinskii did not speak English. He translated it into Russian before forwarding a copy to Catherine II on July 6. The present text was translated from that Russian copy: Bashkina, United States and Russia, pp. 198–9, 219.

9Adams Papers, XV, 76–7. For Markov see the commissioners’ draft letter to the Russian mediators, [before July 15].

1Adams Papers, XV, 76–7.

2See XXXIX, 188n.

3Alfred d’Arneth and Jules Flammermont, eds., Correspondance secrète du comte de Mercy-Argenteau avec l’empereur Joseph II et le prince de Kaunitz (2 vols., Paris, 1889–91), I, 175, 181.

4Bashkina, United States and Russia, p. 209n.

5See XXXIX, 596.

6Bashkina, United States and Russia, p. 198; Adams Papers, XV, 78–9.

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